How to plant tulip bulbs in pots

Are you wanting to plant tulips but don’t have a garden to put them in? Fortunately, tulips are very easy to grow in containers! That said, there are a few tips for planting tulip bulbs in pots.

Success planting tulip bulbs in pots depends on choosing an appropriate planter, high-quality potting mix, and tulip variety, as well as timing planting and chilling. Use a deep planter that’s at least 12″ wide to plant the bulbs. Bulbs can be quite close together. Water the planted tulips and place the pot in a chilled spot (either outdoors or in a fridge) for 8-13 weeks. Properly planted and chilled bulbs will start to sprout when temperatures warm up.

Continue reading to learn how to brighten up your space with potted tulips!

How to plant tulip bulbs in pots

How deep should I plant my tulip bulbs in pots?

Planting tulip bulbs in a pot is no more complicated than planting them in the ground. However, there are a few tweaks you can make to ensure your tulip bulbs bloom at the right time. For example, tulip bulbs need deep planter pots at least 12″ wide. If you go any smaller, your tulip bulbs will not grow properly.

You’re also going to need a good potting mix that drains well and contains perlite (if available). Perlite encourages aeration, provides enough humidity for the bulbs to root, and is great for limited gardening space. Once you get your potting soil, fill your pots up, leaving 1-1/2 inches of space at the top. 

Just like when you plant tulips in the ground, tulips planted in pots need to be planted well beneath the soil’s surface. When you go to plant your tulip bulbs, plant them twice as deep as the tulip bulb is tall. For example, if the tulip bulb is 2 inches long, plant the bulb 4-6 inches deep. You also want to keep 4 inches of soil beneath the bulbs so they root properly.

Another thing to note about planting tulips in pots is that you can plant them closer than you would in the ground. You want them to be close enough so they look uniform in the pot. However, make sure your bulbs aren’t touching. Right after you plant your bulbs, water them thoroughly. Make sure your pot has draining holes so the bulbs are not soaking in water. This will cause them to rot and that’s not what we want. 

Wondering what to do with the tulips once they’ve bloomed? Make sure to check out this guide, on tulip care after blooming!

How to plant tulip bulbs in pots
Terra cotta planter pots work perfectly for planting tulip bulbs

When should I plant my tulips in pots?

You should plan on planting your tulip bulbs in the fall. However, if you live in a warmer climate, you’re going to need to chill your bulbs for 8-13 weeks before planting them in the ground to root and develop properly. To chill your bulbs, place them in a cool garage, in the ground (surrounded by chicken wire), or in a spare refrigerator (with no fruit in it). Make sure your bulbs are stored in a cool environment for the remainder of the winter and the soil is kept moist but not soaking wet. 

Tulips in pots

Which tulip varieties grow well in planters?

If you’re a first-time tulip planter or this is your first time planting tulips in a pot, you may want to stick to one variety. It will give you a more uniform look and you can always experiment as you gain more experience.

Some short tulip varieties that grow well in planters include Monte Carlo Tulips, Secret Perfume Tulips, Brisbane Tulips, Sweet Sixteen Tulips, Red Riding Hood Tulips, and Peppermint Stick Tulips just to name a few! All of these tulips are between 10-12 inches tall, which look lovely when planted in large pots! 

Read more about different tulip varieties

Planting tulip bulbs in a large outdoor planter pot
Tulip bulbs can be planted in pots outdoors in zones 3-7 as long as the pots are at least about a foot wide.

Can I plant tulip bulbs in pots outside?

Tulip bulbs can be planted in pots outside in climates with cool-cold winters. This includes Zones 3-7 on the USDA Plant Hardiness Map. Those in warmer zones will have to chill tulip bulbs in the fridge for 8-13 weeks. Tulip bulbs grow best in planter pots that are at least 12″ wide and are deep enough to place 4″ of soil on top of the bulbs.

Chilling potted tulip bulbs
Forcing tulips is done by potting up bulbs in the fall, chilling them for 8-13 weeks, and then bringing them up to room temperature to “force” them to sprout early.

How to plant tulip bulbs indoors (forcing tulips)

Planting tulip bulbs indoors is a great way to brighten up your home without having a garden. If you’re looking for some flowers to plant inside your home for the upcoming fall season, look no further than tulips! Tulips can be forced to grow indoors under the right conditions. For example, short-stemmed tulips tend to grow better indoors when forced versus tall tulip varieties.

Plant your tulip bulbs in the fall. Use a deep, wide pot. Ideally, there should be up to 4″ of the potting mix below the bulbs and 4″-6″ on top of the bulbs. Water the container after planting the bulbs.

The planter now must be chilled for several months. Place the planter in a cool garage, buried in the ground (can use chicken wire to cover pots from animals), or in a spare refrigerator (with no fruit in it). Whether chilled outdoors or in the fridge, tulip bulbs need 8-13 weeks in a temperature range of 40°-50°F (4°-10°C) to root and develop properly.

After 8-13 weeks, the potted bulbs can be removed from chilling. Bringing them up to a warmer indoor temperature will encourage them to start sprouting. Make sure the space has plenty of bright, indirect sunlight for your flowering bulbs.

Pot of tulips starting to sprout in spring
Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a passionate gardener and well-acclaimed authority in the world of horticulture. As a certified Master Gardener and Permaculture Garden Designer with over a decade of hands-on experience, she has honed her skills to cultivate a deeper understanding of the natural world around us. Beyond her gardening prowess, Mary Jane holds a distinct edge as a Professional Engineer, an expertise that often intertwines with her gardening methodologies, bringing a unique perspective to her readers.

She is the proud founder of the renowned gardening website, Home for the Harvest, a platform dedicated to helping fellow gardeners, both novice and experienced, find their green thumbs. Her gardening expertise hasn't gone unnoticed; she's been spotlighted as a go-to gardening expert by notable publications like Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Mother Earth News, Real Simple, and the National Garden Bureau.

Delving deep into specific fields of study within horticulture, Mary Jane has an extensive knowledge base on sustainable gardening practices (including permaculture), soil science, and selecting cultivars well-suited to home gardeners. Her passion isn't just limited to plants; she's a staunch advocate for holistic, eco-friendly gardening techniques that benefit both flora and fauna.

Currently residing in the picturesque Okanagan Valley, Mary Jane cherishes the time she spends with her family amidst nature, always exploring, learning, and growing both as a gardener and as an individual.

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